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Beijing also has a problem with Genghis Khan. China censored the exhibition in France

The exhibition on the legendary Genghis Khan and his empire was to be the culmination of the year in the Historical Museum of Nantes at the Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany. Visitors were to admire 225 invaluable exhibits from the 13th to the 15th century, including imperial seals and gold jewelry.

The partner of the museum in Nantes is the Museum in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia, which is part of the People’s Republic of China. The Mongolian Museum wanted to boast a rich collection and at the same time commemorate the figure of the creator of the Mongol Empire.

However, the exhibition has been unlucky from the very beginning. Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the start date was postponed to October next year. But China has hit. The way in which the French wanted to tell the story of the founder of the Mongol Empire did not fit into China’s historical narrative. An exhibition about a famous Mongolian leader clashed with Chinese historical politics. “The exhibition will not take place due to censorship by the Chinese central authorities,” Museum director Bertrand Guillet said in a statement to France24. “We have decided to stop production in the name of humanity, science and ethical values, which we must defend,” he added.

Genghis Khan (real name Temujin), who was born around 1160 and died in 1227, united the Mongol tribes and conquered Central Asia and northern China, leading the world’s largest empire at the time. The management of the museum has confirmed that it will try to organize an exhibition with the same motif, using other than just Chinese artifacts. So far, it is planned for 2024.

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A banal dispute

It all started banally, with a dispute over the keywords from the description of the exhibition. China demanded the removal of the name of the creator of the empire from the exhibition. So the names Genghis Khan. It was to be replaced by his Chinese and not fully known name Son of Heaven and Steppe. The Chinese authorities then figured out that the words “empire” and “Mongolian” still needed to be removed from the labels.

“We tried to avoid Chinese poetics and keep the name Genghis Khan in the subtitle,” the director described. “But Beijing was uncompromising and made more and more demands. He demanded a change in dramaturgy, the museum was to follow the instructions of the Beijing National Heritage Office. He wanted to censor the exhibition catalog, maps and accompanying events. “

“The Chinese regime does not intend to allow anyone other than a Chinese official to tell their historical story. Both at home and now also abroad, “explained the French sinologist Valerie Niquet.

However, the problems of the exhibition are also due to the current conflict in Inner Mongolia, in which Beijing has recently had problems. The Mongols, who make up 17 percent of the province’s population, have been protesting since August against the planned introduction of Mandarin as the main language of instruction.


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